Why you should exercise

Lack of regular aerobic exercise puts you at risk for heart disease. Exercise improves the efficiency of the heart and muscles. The heart muscle grows stronger with exercise. Even a little
exercise is better than none at all.

If you move your body, you will feel better. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most, if not all, days of the week.

There are two types of exercise that can help keep you physically healthy:

  • aerobic: Aerobic exercise is a rhythmic, repetitive activity such as walking, swimming and biking that continues for at least 30 minutes. This exercise restores a steady supply of oxygen to the muscles that are being exercised. 
  • strength training: Strength training improves your muscle strength and tone, reduces body fat and may reduce pain in your low back. There are several different types of strength training: elastic bands, cuff and hand weights, free weights, wall pulleys and weight machines.

Talk with your doctor about starting an exercise program if you have health problems, concerns, questions or if you are older than age 50.

Benefits of exercise

The benefits of exercise are many. Exercise:

  • increases your muscle strength and flexibility
  • helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • helps manage your weight by increasing the amount of calories burned
  • lowers your risk for heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes
  • helps control your blood pressure
  • helps increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • makes you feel better
  • reduces your stress
  • increases self-esteem
  • helps control blood glucose

Target heart rate

Your target heart rate can help you stay in a safe exercise heart rate range. You should exercise at your age guidelines.

Note: Medicines may change your heart rate. Check with your health care provider about changes to your exercise heart rate.

Signs you are doing too much

As you exercise, you should be aware of your body’s response. Signs you are doing too much include:

  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • nausea (upset stomach) and vomiting (throwing up)
  • cold sweat
  • shortness of breath, making conversation difficult
  • exhaustion or unusual fatigue
  • feeling as if your heart is suddenly racing or pounding
  • any chest pain or pressure in your:
    • teeth
    • arm
    • jaw
    • ear
    • neck
    • between your shoulder blades

What to do

  1. Stop and rest if you feel any of the above symptoms.
  2. Call 911 if you have symptoms after resting.
  3. If you are out of an emergency service area, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital Emergency Department right away. Do not drive yourself.

You do not need to join a health club or buy expensive equipment to get exercise. You can:

  • Take stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Park your car a little farther from the door when at work or shopping.
  • Go for a brisk walk or a bike ride.
  • Do aerobics.
  • Run up and down stairs.
  • Go dancing, swimming, jogging, or any activity you enjoy.
  • Ride a stationary bike while watching TV.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Take it to Heart: Your Healthy Heart Guide, cvs-ah-92674
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 01/19/2019